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The African Queen by C. S. Forester

The African Queen (1935)

by C. S. Forester

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1,0973312,539 (3.82)113
A classic tale of love and adventure from the author of the Captain Hornblower series. The film adaptation, which starred Katharine Hepburn and Humphrey Bogart, became one of the most popular films ever made. The African Queen is an old, dirty, ugly, unreliable steamboat - not the kind of boat anyone would take down a dangerous river through the jungles of Central Africa. But Rose Sayer and Charlie Allnut do just that. Why do they do it? The First World War has just begun, and Rose has a crazy plan. She and Charlie set off down the river and come close to death many times, but they survive all dangers - except the danger of falling in love.… (more)



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Journeying down a wild African river of cataracts and malarial, jungle-covered river banks, Charlie Allnutt and Rose Sayer initially come into conflict with one another before falling in love. That is the story, cliched as it may seem. But what makes The African Queen special are the circumstances that surround that story. Not just the trip through the rapids but the troubles to stay afloat and in motion--and then the passageway through some of the most horrific terrain imaginable in the river's delta. All against the background of World War I and the battle between Germany, on one hand, and Britain and Belgium, on the other, in Central Africa.

Forester is superb writer of action and adventure stories, especially those set at sea. Here, he has managed to bring his nautical details into the midst of the vast African continent. But he still fights his ultimate battle on water--a vast lake.

There might be something else at work, here, too. For the story is one almost exclusively about Allnutt and Rose, a Cockney mechanic and the daughter of a tradesman turned missionary to help her brother's mission. Forester focuses on these two, stalwarts in their way, of the Empire, without the need of upper class direction or commentary. This, he seems to say, is what makes Britain strong. Of course, there is nothing new in itself with this sentiment. Kipling made it a feature of his writing. But this novel was written in 1935, and there is a tinge of resentment against the ruling class running throughout. I can't help but think of the wartime British propaganda poster that would appear a few years later, in 1939, which avowed: "Your Courage! Your Cheefulness! Your Resolution! WILL BRING US VICTORY!" More than a few people, at the time, saw "your" as referring to the lower and working classes, while "us" referred to the ruling class. Of course, none of this feeling exists in the 1951 film version with Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn, where Bogart portrays a gritty Canadaian/American Everyman who brings a knowledge of life and love to a British spinster.

A very nice novel. ( )
  PaulCornelius | Apr 12, 2020 |
Sixteen years before there was a move titled The African Queen, there was a book, a classic story of adventure and love. Set in German Southwest Africa at the beginning of WWI, it brings together Rose, a middle-class missionary's sister, and a cockney mechanic who works at a nearby mine.

Rose is a strong, patriotic woman and convinces the weaker Charlie that they should attack a German gunboat in his small and ailing steamboat. Against all odds she sways our hero to attempt the journey down a dangerous river full of fast rapids, thick vegetation, leeches and rocks to get to the lake where the German boat is on patrol.

Mismatched lovers, a wacky adventure, and an unlikely hero pulled me in quickly and gave me a day of pure reading pleasure. It's no wonder to me that The African Queen has become a classic. ( )
  clue | Mar 4, 2020 |
New York: The Modern Library (c) 1935
  oldie1730 | Apr 10, 2019 |
The African Queen - C S Forester **

I remember seeing the film years ago, but I had no idea it was based upon a book, and even less of an idea that it was the same author as the Hornblower series. Written in 1935 and set during the First World War, it tells the story of Rose Sayer (a missionary’s sister) and Charlie Allnutt a cockney mechanic and also captain of his own small vessel called the African Queen. The two unlikely characters find themselves thrown together when Rose’s brother dies and Allnuts crew desert him after rumours of conscription services in the war. The German occupation of the surrounding lands is fortified by a gunboat Königin Luise, and any British attack would probably be badly hampered or fail with this obstacle in their path. Rose decides to try and do her bit for the war effort and convinces Charlie to turn his boat into a kind of makeshift torpedo and ram the gunboat. The two personalities couldn’t be more different, but they will need to work together if they are to stand any kind of chance....

This, for me, is one of the few books where I actually preferred the film. I don’t think it has aged all that well and was a very slow burner. There just wasn’t enough to hold my attention. The other thing that really grated on me was the way that Allnut’s speech was written in dialect, I know he is a cockney... this was made apparent very early on, do I really need to try and decipher everything he says? That has to be my pet hate in books, some people say it adds to the realism, and for me it just disrupts the flow. I got sick of reading: ‘ere, ‘ow, ‘is, an’, ‘asn’t..... just add the bloody extra letters and be done with it. And don’t get me started on altering whole words, substituting ‘awye’ for ‘away’ and ‘agine’ for ‘again’. The odd word may not bother me too much, but sometime it was nearly every word in a sentence.

Anyway... as I said, a lot of people seem to have read and enjoyed the book. I just wasn’t one of them. ( )
  Bridgey | Jan 10, 2018 |
A fun, fast book though the ending was different from the movie version. I must have seen Katherine Hepburn and Humphrey Bogart in the film 10 times & it was interesting to get to know the characters a bit more in depth. ( )
  leslie.98 | Aug 28, 2016 |
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Although she herself was ill enough to justify being in bed had she been a person weak-minded enough to give up, Rose Sayer could see that her brother, the Reverend Samuel Sayer, was far more ill.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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AR Level 7.9, 11 Pts.
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